A few new rules and regulations are about to take effect, both for domestic and international commercial flights. Here is a short recap of those most important to travelers:
US Government Issues E-Cigarette Rules for All Airlines
Electronic cigarettes have long been banned by individual airlines’ rules and regulations, but beginning in April, it will be a standing government rule that no airline, foreign or domestic, with flights within, into, or out of the United States can allow the use of e-cigarettes by passengers or crew members.
To clarify, passengers are still allowed to carry e-cigarettes onto a plane, but they cannot use one or charge its battery in-flight. E-cigarettes are also not allowed to be placed in checked luggage.
This is the final step in closing the gap on rules and regulations between the use of tobacco, which has been banned on planes for over three decades, and e-cigarettes. Both will now be treated with an equally heavy hand.
Another reason for the tightening of these policies is the volatility of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which power most e-cigarettes. These batteries have a history of overheating, or even self-igniting, under certain conditions. Several instances such as these have occurred in recent years, in both checked luggage and in the cabin. Batteries have ignited in passengers pockets, and when mistakenly placed in checked luggage, have caused the aircraft’s fire suppression system to engage if overheated.
United Nations Bans the Shipment of Lithium-Ion Batteries on Commercial Flights
Unbeknownst to many travelers, cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries have been allowed on commercial passenger planes. Starting April 1, 2016, this will no longer be the case, thanks to the International Civil Aviation Organization, who voted in favor of this ban. Approximately 30% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries are shipped through the air, with the remaining 70% traveling by sea.
Lithium-ion batteries are used in cell phones, laptops, and many other items we use on a daily basis. While the ban covers the shipment of these batteries as stand-alone items, it does not apply to laptops and cell phones with pre-installed lithium-ion batteries.
This ban also extends to cargo shipments aboard non-passenger planes, as it mandates that any lithium-ion battery shipping through the air be charged to no more than 30%.
These batteries, when ignited, can create fires that reach 1,100 degrees, which is dangerously near the melting point for aluminum, a main material in the construction of aircraft cabins.
Pets Get an Upgrade – No More Flying as Checked Bags
Delta Airlines stopped accepting pets as checked baggage, effective March 1, 2016. In the past decade, over 80 pets that flew as checked baggage on Delta have either died or gone missing. This is a welcomed effort on Delta’s part and builds on a 2011 decision to ban some breeds with respiratory issues from flying as cargo.
The same rules regarding size and weight will still apply for pets allowed in the passenger cabin; as for larger breeds, Delta will allow them to travel via Delta Cargo on their freight flights. These flights will allow pets to travel under the supervision of customer service specialists. These four-legged passengers will also appreciate the temperature-controlled holding areas and transportation vans, as well as the professional kenneling services that will be provided when necessary.